Crisis communication – practical PR strategies for reputation management and company survival

Editor: Peter F. Anthonissen

The fact that we live in a transparent world means that no organization is immune to the threat of a potential crisis . That (a crisis) does not necessarily mean a disaster that occurs. You can significantly limit the damage and sometimes turn it into an opportunity through the right communication. That communication can make or break you.

It is the transparency of communication, where most managers struggle, that allows the organization to create an image of openness. This is most appreciated by the stakeholders, they trust this the most. Preparation, speed, transparency and efficiency are the concepts that are of great importance.

A crisis plan (and a crisis communication plan) is an important asset in the VUCA world. Immunity does not exist, but dealing with a crisis and turning it into an opportunity is an art. Targeted and fast communication can even strengthen the reputation of the organization. Stakeholders and courts judge according to the approach. It is necessary to put people first, for the interests of the company. In that case, the organization often gets a second chance.

Training is essential if you ever need to speak to the media or get on the radio. Preparation is the key to success there too. That sometimes hurts the board members of an organization: they are busy, do not see the usefulness of it, or do not dare to reveal themselves. That can lead to a worsening of the situation when it comes to that.

The chance of being confronted with a crisis increases over time. Why? Which things cause a crisis? Human action errors, errors of judgment, not responding in a timely manner, not anticipating signals, mechanical errors, or simply denying that a crisis can affect anyone. It is also a fact that organizations are increasingly confronted with liability, which they have to make public. The public wants immediate accountability. And she wants to know what is being done about the crisis and how the problems are being tackled.

Some successful crisis communication principles are:

– Always assume the worst case scenario

– Make sure you have a CMP (Crisis Management Plan) and CCP (Crisis Communication Plan)

– Don’t waste time, don’t delay, so prepare

– People always come first

– Speed ​​of reaction to take and keep control of the situation

In addition: learn lessons from the crisis. It is not because the acute crisis situation is over that it is over. Take initiatives so that the same crisis can no longer occur. But also learn from crises that occur in the competition, or even in other sectors. The actions to be taken during a crisis must also be trained. Role plays can help with that. This shows the internal and external environment that the organization takes the crises seriously and is actively preparing. The crisis awareness of the employees is increasing and it is building credit with the public.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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